Lookman is 5. Two years ago, he swallowed some lye by mistake. Unfortunately his case was very difficult: the lye he’d swallowed was semi-solid and left such big scars that his mouth is now completely sealed. He can’t even open it just a little bit, and this obviously makes it impossible for him to eat, drink or speak. Last year he nearly died due to a dental abscess: there was no way to get his mouth open to take out the tooth. He eats by means of the gastrostomy that we had to make, and comes back to us every month for a check-up and to have the g-tube changed.
But in recent months, the Ebola epidemic has made it very hard to get around in Sierra Leone, and many districts have been “closed” to help prevent the virus from spreading. One of these was the district where Lookman lives. The last time I saw him was 8th August; he didn’t come to the hospital for months, and I really thought he was dead. I knew his life hung on that tube in his stomach, that has to be replaced at once if it breaks or comes loose. I was afraid he hadn’t made it, either because of hunger or because of Ebola.
Then, one morning a few weeks ago, I got to the hospital and he was there, as beautiful as the sun. As soon as he saw me he came running up to me… it was a wonderful moment.
His father had been fantastic, feeding him throughout all those months, and Lookman was in a reasonable general condition.
Once again I understood why it’s worth staying here to toil and fight… reasons like the smile of this little big man who I waited months to see and who I thought I’d never see again. Lookman is back.
Medical Coordinator of EMERGENCY’s Surgical and Pediatric Center in Goderich, Sierra Leone
Unique in Sierra Leone, EMERGENCY has implemented a project to treat life-threatening esophageal burns caused by accidental ingestion of caustic lye. Cases with this type of injury are seen relatively frequently since many households use this ingredient to produce homemade soap. To help more children like Lookman receive life-saving treatment for their esophageal burns, click here to donate now.